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Game Pass First Impressions: Moonglow Bay

By Heidi Nicholas,

I didn’t know I was looking for a game like Moonglow Bay; something so relaxing and utterly absorbing that it feels like a break to play. It’s available now with Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Game Pass for PC — even if, like me, you’re not usually a fan of cooking or fishing in games, I’d recommend starting it up if you’re looking for your next Game Pass gem, or if you fancy escaping into a relaxing adventure for a few hours.

Once you’ve selected your character, picked a name, and confirmed their pronouns, you’re out into Moonglow Bay. The game starts on a mournful note; the loss of your partner. In our Xbox Indie Spotlight on Moonglow Bay, creative director Zach Soares told us that death was something the team wanted to explore from the beginning, along with the notion of mourning and living through the outcome, and this is clear from the start; our character is trying to pick up the pieces of their fractured life. It just so happens that Moonglow Bay itself is also floundering, and on the verge of going bankrupt. Our character works to revitalise the town and their relationships with its people by sharing meals with the townspeople, fishing in the seas beyond the bay, donating new species to the Aquarium, and investing in the town’s rejuvenation. Starting from scratch is always a strong hook — I was instantly invested in the town’s future, and determined to save it.

In theory, I shouldn’t be so fond of Moonglow Bay. Cooking and fishing aren’t usually at the top of my list of favourite things to do in a game, and since Moonglow Bay is a “relaxing slice-of-life fishing RPG,” you’ll be doing a lot of both. But Moonglow Bay’s relaxing atmosphere seeps into every aspect, meaning you don’t need to rush; you can just take your time with each activity. Sure, a few townspeople might be waiting on you to bring them a meal or two, but there’s no harried hassle to it — if you tell them you haven’t got their food yet, they’re not fussed. The cooking process itself is lovely, too. There are steps to each meal, such as cleaning the fish, chopping it, boiling it, frying it, and baking it, and the little interactive prompts for each part do a great job of keeping you invested while also sticking to the game’s relaxing tone. I’m five hours in and fishing has yet to grow old — the different combinations of rod, lure, and bait, plus the variety of creatures to catch and the range of biomes in which to catch them, will definitely keep reeling you back for more.

moonglow bay

You can tell a lot of love went into Moonglow Bay. Right at the start, you’re swept into its relaxing atmosphere, and the game feels peppered with wholesome moments. Despite their loss and their grief, our character’s individual sense of humour shines through, allowing us to learn a little more about their personality both through their interactions with the townspeople and their gentle disbelief of Moonglow Bay’s legends of mysterious sea creatures. Moonglow Bay doesn’t pile on the pressure — the townsfolk have their own schedules and wants, and if you spend some time sharing your cooking or helping them with their goals, they’ll reward you with official confirmation of your friendship via a stamp in your journal. From what I can see, these don’t actually cause anything monumental to happen; they’re just a lovely layer of immersion to help you get fully absorbed in life in Moonglow Bay.

moonglow bay xbox game pass

Those townsfolk are a varied bunch, adding a comic element to the game with their description of Moonglow Bay’s bizarre sea creatures — seriously, you can catch anything from a Jazzy Rabbit Fish to a Balloon Shark. These creatures can be found in a range of biomes, adding another element to fishing as you decide where and when to try your luck. More fishing options open up to you as you become more experienced, and you can have a go casting a net, dropping a cage to catch lobsters, or fishing through the ice. Your catches are recorded in your journal, and if you donate a species to the aquarium, their page will be fleshed out with a little more information about them. The aquarium was already a strong hook for me, but I also like the added goal of filling out the rest of the journal, leading me to go hunting in faraway seas for rarer creatures to catch.

It does take a little while to get used to Moonglow Bay’s map — I kept getting turned around at first — and navigating your way back to the Bay after fishing far away can also be tricky; you might find you need to stop and open the map quite a bit to check you’re not actually heading in the wrong direction. The voxel art style, meanwhile, while lovely to look at, does make it a tad bit harder to tell who’s who if you’re looking for a particular individual. It’s not always clear, either, to see where your next objective is, and, sometimes, the person you need to talk to stays shut up inside all day in a building you can’t access. This does play into the idea of your fellow townspeople having their own lives, but it does take a little getting used to. These are all nitpicks rather than actual grievances, and Moonglow Bay’s charm more than makes up for any little irritations.

moonglow bay

Summary

There’s nothing overly complicated about Moonglow Bay, and there doesn’t need to be. From what I’ve played so far, Moonglow Bay’s divide between fishing, exploration, cooking, and working on relationships works wonderfully. The game is nearly always relaxing, with its gentle breezes and its lovely soundtrack — honestly, this game felt completely absorbing to play; both a complete shift from what I’ve played lately, and a welcome break from doomscrolling panic. It reminded me a little of Ooblets at first, just with its colourful world and its sense of cheery wholesomeness. As for the achievements; I unlocked a few from playing through the story, but it looks as though it’ll take some time and some serious fishing to unlock the rest, with a number of achievements requiring that you research a particular selection of fish. It also looks as though there might be some strategy needed, if you’re to get the Fishing Season achievement (for completing the story in 30 days or fewer) and the Restauranteur achievement (for completing the story without buying, selling, or trading any unprepared fish.) I’m still playing through, so I don’t know if fishing and cooking will go on to lose its charm, but from what I have played so far, Moonglow Bay is a wonderfully relaxing adventure that I’m looking forward to getting back to. On that note…

Heidi spent around five hours fishing in the seas of Moonglow Bay.

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